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Yours, angry of Spelthorne…

Written by Gareth Young on . Posted in Our blog

The LGIU Daily Briefing is a valuable resource for local government officers and I try to make time to read it every day. Most days I find it a useful source of context and stories; some relevant to work and some just stored away in the memory bank for future reference.

Last week however, the briefing made me angry. The offending article was as follows:

Councillors fail to pay taxes

Spelthorne Council has admitted that six of its elected members have not paid their council tax for three years. The six, who cannot be identified due to the Data Protection Act, have fallen behind with their payments since 2011.

The Daily Telegraph, Page: 5

I know that councillors not paying their council tax is a fairly well-worn story beloved of local journalists but it is no less shocking even for its regularity. Plus, and more important in this context, I live in Spelthorne and as a local resident and taxpayer am just a little pi55ed off about that my local councillors have the bare faced cheek to not pay their taxes.

I know this is probably obvious but let me explain the reasons for my outrage:

1)      The council sends me demands for me to pay my taxes. These demands come from decisions made by the council, as in the councillors. What right do they have to demand money from me if they are not paying it themselves

2)      Surely people are elected as councillors because they care about local services. And if you care about council services how can you then not pay the taxes that fund those services? Anyone who would act in that way is probably not the sort of person who I want to represent me and to be honest I’m not even sure why they would bother to stand if they would act in this way?

3)      They get paid by the council for being a councillor. At the very least the two could offset?

4)      There is no punishment for not paying their taxes

5)      I have no idea who it is who is not paying their taxes and thus I can’t vote against them.

 

 

 

 

Add all that together and you can understand why I am a little miffed.

What is more on a personal level I just don’t understand how someone elected as a councillor could have so little concern for the probity we expect of ordinary members of the public, let alone councillors, and could act like this. I know we want normal people with normal problems to be councillors but I think this is one expectation that is eminently reasonable.

There is, in my mind, a simple solution to this; if councillors fall behind with their tax they should be barred from taking part in any council meetings until their account is settled. We could also publicise the ‘banned’ list (which I hope would be empty) at the start of every meeting. It’s easy to do and I can’t imagine any member of the public objecting to it.

 

In fact with an election coming up does anyone want to join me in proposing this as something for the party manifestos?

Posted: 2 years 2 months ago by RachaelMack #1273
RachaelMack's Avatar
Completely understandable reaction, but a quick update - there is a law and (slight) punishment.

Section 106 of the LG & Finance Act 1992 requires councillors who are more than 2 months in arrears for payment of their council tax to declare this to the meeting and they are not entitled to vote on any matter relating to setting the council tax. It's a criminal offence if they fail to do this.

Almost everywhere this will be checked a month or two in advance by your council's finance and legal heads and any councillors likely to fall foul of the regulations are reminded to pay up or find an excuse not to attend the meeting.

Want to know who they are? Look to see who sent apologies that night - or who suddenly had an urgent phone call they had to take and left the room seconds before those remaining were asked to declare whether or not they were in arrears. You'll find that urgent phone call ended right after council moved to next business - just watch someone slip outside the chamber to tell them it's safe to come back.

Councils do pursue councillors in arrears, same as they would any citizen - but I can't think of a single time I've ever heard of the bailiffs visiting a Cabinet member...

I agree that a 'banned' list should be published. I always hated this subterfuge and being expected to play a role in it. (To be fair, this was only at my last authority; my previous authorities would remind any councillors in arrears and they would pay up immediately so they could take part in the vote - and it wasn't an issue the next year.)

When I worked for my local authority, we had the option to pay council tax directly from our salary - I'm sure the same arrangement exists elsewhere and could be set up for councillors.
Posted: 2 years 2 months ago by Glen #1274
Glen's Avatar
Personally, I think this is outrageous. Unless there's a bloody good reason they've not paid then they should be banned from undertaking their councillor duties (and claiming expenses) for a month for every month they haven't paid for. Perhaps a limit after which they are automatically removed from office?

Too far?

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